my dearest family,

Merry Christmas (eve for me)! this week has been wonderful, and full of eating–yikes we’ve been fed more in the last week than in my whole mission combined probably and Russians don’t take no for an answer and make you eat until you have to take off your belt. mayonnaise salads and pickled beets are the death of me but everything else was really good haha.
Yesterday Sister Carver and I spoke in church. She spoke about the spirit of Christmas and following Christ’s example of service (by the way, have i mentioned how much I love Sister Carver? she really is the best thing that has ever happened to me and every day i learn from her more and appreciate her more and adore her more and I could not be more grateful for this opportunity to serve with her…it really is too good to be true). I spoke about New Years and what the word “new” means. It means everything is white, fresh, clean, spotless, untainted-and that’s exciting! But it also means unpredictable, unprecedented–and that’s scary! But if we don’t trust in the future, if we don’t trust God, where is our hope? When we have an eternal perspective, follow the prophets, and cheer up (I used this talk from April 2009 by Steven E. Snow called “Get on With your Life” or something like that–it doesn’t translate directly into Russian), then we can face these new inevitable changes in our lives. Change, especially during New Years, is a time for reflection–we think about what we had this last year, what we will have this year–what we did last year, what we will do this year. And we decide. We decide who we want to be, what we want to change. We decide if we want to live in the past, dwell on our mistakes or “the good old days” (I do that. a lot.), or if we want to “press forward with a steadfastness in Christ”, and look up. Sometimes we’re so focused on what we had that we are blinded to the blessings that are right in front of us. Sometimes we are like Lot’s wife, and we turn back–we second guess the promised blessings God wants to give us. I used the example of when Christ told His disciples to “Remember Lot’s wife”..and He doesn’t explain what He means by that. But Elder Holland gave a devotional at BYU that explains the significance of that statement–Christ was teaching His disciples about forgiveness when He used Lot’s wife as an example. Like Lot’s wife, we turn around. We turn back when we are offended by something someone said to us ten years ago, or maybe even yesterday. We turn back when we say we have forgiven, when we haven’t forgotten. We turn back when we’re unable to see people’s potential–what they can be, because we’re so focused on who they were. And this is like poison–we’re turning into salt! The past is so important–we have to learn from it and appreciate it. But we also have to trust and faith always looks to the future. “and what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of His resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in Him according to the promise” (Moroni 7:41). The Lord has promised us that His spirit will always be with us, that death is not the end. That we can live as families for eternity with Him and His Beloved Son and our “joy shall be full forever” (2 Nephi 9:18). “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him”  (1 Corinthians 2:9). If we keep our promises, He keeps His promises, so why do we ever fear? turn that frown right upside down! I’m so grateful for the birth of the Savior of the World, our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of the way that He lived His life and because of the way He gave His life, we will praise His birth forever and ever. Because of His love and mercy, we can change. Sister Carver and I always use the phrase “New Year, New Life” (it sounds cooler in Russian) when we plan and make goals about our investigators and the work that we’re doing here. But I’m so grateful that because of the Savior, every day is a new day and every decision we make, we decide who we are going to become.
This morning I started crying in the shower because I was so overwhelmed by the inspiring young men and women who are deciding to go on missions right now. I thought about what this new year will entail for them. It’s crazy that this time last year, I didn’t know that I would be serving in Russia. Russia had never crossed my mind and I had never even heard of “Ryazan.” I didn’t know what 2012 would hold for me, and I was scared but I’m so grateful that I didn’t let that fear hold me back because the Lord had prepared something for me that my eyes had never seen and my ears had never heard (I hear such things every day), and love has entered into my heart that was never there before. Nicole and that whole crew of girl power hitting the field just gives me the chills. Don’t worry about saying goodbye and don’t be afraid of the “new” part of the New Year